In this section we provide some specific guidance for local authorities. We assume that each local authority has access to its own specialist advice but are happy to assist in relation to ecclesiastical matters.
The first note is as to requests for the consecration of cemeteries and burial grounds which are controlled by a local authority.
Local authorities may also be asked to take over the maintenance of churchyards which have been closed by Order in Council. The provisions relating to this are the subject of guidance within the Registry Guidance note about Churchyards Maintenance Closure and Memorials.
The Consistory Court deals mainly with the 'Faculty Jurisdiction' relating to consecrated land and buildings within the Diocese of Lichfield - this includes most Church of England churches and churchyards, a number of unconsecrated chapels and the consecrated parts of Local Authority cemeteries. The Chancellor of the Diocese of Lichfield is The Honourable Mr. Justice Eyre. The Deputy Chancellor is Dr Anthony Verduyn; they sit as the Judges of the Consistory Court. The Registry enables the work of both Consistory Court and Registrar.
The jurisdiction covers the equivalent of listed building consent for the building and a variety of planning related matters. Any work to a church has to be authorised either under a Faculty or by a permission through List A or List B. It also operates to ensure that churches and churchyards are managed appropriately in relation to certain secular issues such as wayleaves and rights of way. However the range of matters covered is very broad indeed and you will find a guidance note as to some of the more unusual aspects of the Faculty Jurisdiction under the heading of Faculty Jurisdiction. In the first instance, guidance should be obtained from the Diocesan Advisory Committee staff, but the Registry is always happy to respond to questions.
Memorial Testing Faculty Petition
Local Authorities may be particularly concerned about memorial safety within consecrated churchyards under their control. It must be remembered that the responsibility for maintenance does not override the obligations owed to the owners of the memorials in question (nor indeed does it change the owners primary responsibility for that maintenance). But for obvious reasons local authorities may be the party which is practically and legally responsible for action. Action should be taken within the Faculty Jurisdiction and care should be taken to follow the applicable guidance and the legal regulations for petitions. The On-line Faculty System cannot be used for such petitions, so contact should be made with the Registry for advice.
Whether it is a local authority or a parochial council which is responsible for maintaining a consecrated burial ground, it is important to conduct regular inspections of memorials to check that the graveyard is safe. Where physical testing is envisaged a Faculty should be obtained because of the likelihood of owners' rights being affected. The notes in the Petition form will be of assistance in completing the form. It may also be useful to refer to the Guidance note below which touches on the question of memorial ownership. It is important to understand that safety is a critical concern but that there are alternatives to immediate work to a memorial which respect that the memorial belongs to an individual who should be consulted before the memorial is tampered with. (These include cordoning off the memorial or providing support to it; memorials should not be laid flat without formal permission). It is important to look carefully at the standard conditions which are used in these cases, and especially at the three stages of any testing which should be carried out.
There are no prescribed forms for notices to memorial owners but the draft letter and notice below may help authorities decide what can be said. It would be hoped that consultation could take place well before the Faculty is sought, and then again in respect of specific works once testing is underway. The authority should consult the minister and the PCC at an early stage. The PCC should be asked to assist in the consultation, but should also be asked to pass a resolution hopefully to support the intended programme of work, and should be lodged with the Petition. The authority is responsible for liaising with the minister and PCC.
The Registry will pass the Petition initially to the Diocesan Advisory Committee for a recommendation to the Chancellor before the Petition can be considered.
The Registry will provide a formal Notice of the Petition for each church and burial ground affected.
Because authorities may well have responsibility for more than one consecrated area, the Registry is prepared to consider a joint petition covering more than one such area. Each PCC will need to be consulted and to pass a separate resolution. A reduced fee is payable in such cases, depending on the number of areas covered.
If work is intended which is beyond the scope of the conditions, then an application will be needed within the Court proceedings. Please consult the Registry about such matters, but usually the application can be made by letter. Additional fees may then be payable
In some situations, emergency work may be justified. Please see the link below as to Interim Faculty application form, which should be used before any work is carried out.
Please complete and return the petition form to the Registry, together with the supporting information asked for. Please note the section regarding fees.
- Memorial Testing Faculty Petition Form - Local Authority
- Template of Public Notice - Local Authority
- Letter to Memorial Owner - Local Authority
The following pages may also be useful to Local Authorities: